More Questions than Answers

I quite like the ABC television program Questions & Answers (Q&A) that airs at 9.30pm on a Thursday night. The format comprises a panel of people with opinions (and usually a political leaning), discussing a range of issues that are of public interest.

It has effectively pioneered a new type of public affairs talkback television whereby an audience can ask questions and viewers at home can send them in via email. As the show is live, there is an opportunity for viewers to help ‘direct’ the discourse. This usually results in a lively discussion and several good debates where some hitherto largely unknown perspective of the issue at hand is explored.

However, there are times when the show is extraordinarily frustrating for a Liberal to watch. This begins with the studio audience applauding almost every statement that attacks the former government or any that conforms to the leftist agenda.

The composition of the audience has been raised during Senate Estimates with the ABC and their management have produced statistics to support the claim that ‘there is no studio bias’. However, they also admitted they find it hard to get conservative voters on the show and have trawled through various likely conservative demographics to find some more.

Well, last night they did obviously find some. A group of seemingly reasonable people who asked good questions about our relationship with China, Rudd’s attack on capitalism, the first home buyers grant and the economics of the stimulus package. Having covered many of these topics in my comments, it is little wonder I thought the questions were well-considered. Who knows, a Cory’s Comment reader or two might have been in the audience last night!

But I digress dear reader. Let me return to last night’s primary frustration. The absolute lowlight of my viewing experience was thanks to host Tony Jones. Now, Mr Jones is a polished television host, articulate and professional. However, since the ABC’s terribly biased presentation of “The Great Global Warming Swindle” last year, I have been aware of how a host can shape a discussion to the detriment of the show.

For me, last night was one of those moments. Tanya Plibersek (Housing Minister) was asked an insightful and tough question by a clean-cut young man in the audience. It was specifically directed to Ms Plibersek and I was looking forward to hearing the answer. However, rather than allow the Minister to answer the question, Mr Jones directed it to another guest, and then another one and another one…and so on. By the time every other panellist had finished commenting, there was no reference to the original question and Ms Plibersek wasn’t even asked to respond as the host moved on to ‘another question’.

For those who saw last night’s Q&A, you might think I am being overly sensitive (hardly a common complaint about me!) and perhaps this was a simple oversight, but for me, it reduced the quality and integrity of the show. It also did nothing to allay any concerns some Liberals might have about a political bias on our ABC.

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